Thank God for women in the motorcycle industry

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I don’t remember seeing women piloting their own motorcycles back when I was growing up. I only remember women riding on the back of motorcycles. I know there were women riders, but I’ll be danged if I can remember any. I also don’t recall women working at any of the bike shops I frequented. WTF?

Today women hold a key role in the motorcycle industry by bringing positive attention to the industry, by attracting new female riders, and by softening the “biker” image. We have moved way past the “women as passengers” stereotypes. This is great for our business. Women are 50 percent of our population, so if we can get the same percentage of women as we do of men to ride, our industry would be booming again!

It’s good to have women on your staff who can relate to these women riders and make them feel comfortable in the world of motorcycling. It’s especially beneficial when you have female employees who ride their own bikes. They make other female customers think “If they can do it, I can do it too” and they encourage other females to start riding or to get out and ride more often. At my Strokers Empire I employ more than 50 people and lots of them are women. The front-runner of course is my wife, Susan. She is my office manager/bookkeeper/insurance coordinator/human resources/file clerk/secretary/catchall. I tell people that I’m in charge of motorcycle-related things, and my wife is in charge of everything else!

Meghan Deefreeuw is my marketing/PR lady/ assistant/website coordinator. In addition to regular marketing and PR responsibilities, she deals with all the outside vendors and bands that we bring in on a weekly basis. She is my Internet expert and helps me with, and teaches me all about, social networking. She keeps all the details of my appointment book and reminds me what not to say when I’m out and about. I’m not very politically correct and both Susan and Meghan are scared to death that I’m going to offend someone by putting my mouth in gear before I engage my brain.

Shawna Sopp does all the paperwork for the bike sales department. A former employee of the tax office, she is well versed in dealing with titles and all the paperwork the state requires. Every bike we sell has to run through the Texas Department of Transportation. Shawna is my gal who makes sure we get it all right. If I ever have a problem with a vendor, a company or a customer, I let her handle it. She doesn’t take no for an answer and always makes us come out on top.

Amy Shilling handles all the paperwork for the service department. We service thousands of bikes a year, so it’s a full-time job making sure that nothing falls through the cracks. She handles all warranties and insurance claims and deals directly with all parties. She also makes sure that all the parts are on order for service and works in the parts department when needed.

Felicia Barton has run the front counter for six years and has been our main buyer. We sell tens of thousands of T-shirts each year and produce several new designs each quarter. She keeps up with trends so that she knows what will sell, and monitors inventory and special orders. Felicia has a great staff of women working with her each day including Bonnie Langford- Larson, my daughter Liz, and four part-time employees. These girls greet every customer who walks through our doors and are well trained and knowledgeable about the products we carry.

My daughter Lena grew up working behind the front counter. When she recently came back to work for me, I put her in the parts department for a year and have now moved her into the bike sales department. She is very important to my company and is learning every department. She talks to potential motorcycle buyers and can relate to them (especially the women) because she rides a custom Rick Fairless Victory Vegas.

I believe that in most cases women make better employees than men. They are more compassionate than men and they seem to deal with the customers better. If I could, I wouldn’t employ any men at all. Hey that’s an idea! I want an all-women staff here at my Strokers Empire. I’ll bet you a nickel to a donut that if I did that my business would double! I’ll work on that and get back to ya.

The motorcycle industry has changed over the years and women are a huge part of that change. I know my Strokers Empire would not be where it is today without the hard work of the women I employ. They say that behind every great man there’s a woman. Well, I don’t consider myself to be a great man, but I do have many smarter-than-me women guiding me.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews May 2011 issue.

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